Sleep Training System™
Simple, common sense solutions
In the beginning, sleep is not an issue for most of us. Although insomnia can occur at any age, at least through young adulthood our natural sleep systems tend to be strong enough so for the most part we sleep soundly and consistently awaken refreshed.
We all inevitably experience at one time or another restless nights for a myriad of reasons – sickness, diet, stress are all factors – but in general chronic insomnia is not typically a concern when we’re young, even though the amount of sleep needed steadily declines until we reach adulthood.
Average hours of sleep decreases through adulthood
Average hours of sleep
Up to 18 hours
Adults, including elderly
National Institutes of Health
As we age, that often changes. In early adulthood, many of us are challenged by a slowing biological clock that disconnects from a normal circadian rhythm. In later life, we tend to sleep lighter, are awakened more easily, and the strength of our inherent ability to sleep becomes somewhat diminished. As our sleeping becomes lighter and more fragmented, the idea of sleep becomes more of a concern for many of us.
There are a number of underlying reasons for this concern.
From about age 14 through 30, it’s common for our biological clocks to slow down and get out of synch with the natural circadian cycle of each day. Because of a slower biological clock, some young adults may experience more of a 28 to 30 hour day instead of a 24-hour day. This means 11 p.m. may feel more like 7 or 8 p.m. And 7 a.m. may feel more like 3 or 4 a.m.
Sure, those hours can make it tough to sleep! Fortunately, most people’s biological clocks eventually speed up to more of a normal 24-hour day and this issue is resolved. Still, for some people this can lead to worry about the idea of sleep.
By the time we are in our mid to late 30s, physiological changes are occuring in our now aging bodies. Our metabolism changes in subtle but progressive ways. These metabolic changes associated with aging can and do affect sleep.
For instance, sleep researchers have found that older persons in general tend to sleep lighter, are more often disrupted by brief awakenings, and sleep duration is on average shorter by a half hour to an hour. By the time we reach 60, roughly half of us experience insomnia.
An increasing rate of change in culture and society – especially in how people work and recreate – also contribute to some sleep problems. The National Academy of Medicine suggests some sleep loss can be attributed to such broad societal changes, including greater reliance on longer work hours, shift work, and access to nonstop television and the internet.
Many persons adapt to these social and physiological changes with no problem at all. Others develop some form of sleep problem, ranging from just an occasional restless night to severe and chronic insomnia that is debilitating to daytime functioning. Today close to 70% of all adults complain of some difficulty either falling asleep or staying asleep. Many just suffer silently through this, not knowing what to do.
Pharmaceutical companies have noted this well. A huge and lucrative market worth billions of dollars has been developed to sell you a good night’s sleep through pills. Today literally tens of millions are prescribed sleeping pills in some form. These medications, while potentially useful for some, are also potentially addictive, possibly dangerous, and have sometimes severe, even frightening, side effects.
Some people who take sleeping pills report such bizarre and dangerous behaviors as sleep driving, sleep eating, and sleepwalking. One person awoke with a paint brush in her hand, having painted her front door in her sleep. Another set fire to her kitchen while trying to cook asleep. Another person crashed his car into a tree while sleep driving.
In all of these instances, the individuals were in a sleeping pill-induced haze and with no memory afterward. The FDA now requires Ambien, Lunesta and other such sedative-hypnotic drugs to carry strong warnings about possible side effects.
The most common side effect from sleeping pills is daytime drowsiness. We suggest that rarely, if ever, will a sleeping pill – prescription, over the counter, or even an herbal remedy for that matter – produce the kind of naturally refreshed and rejuvenated state of mind as you’ll get from a good night’s sleep achieved on your own.
More importantly, sleeping pills and herbal remedies tend to address only the symptoms, not the true root causes of insomnia caused by self-limiting thoughts and counterproductive behaviors that undermine good sleeping.
There are much better ways to battle sleeplessness.
Our approach with the Sleep Training System (STS) is different. We focus not on the symptoms but go directly to the sources of the problem – the attitudes, expectations, and behaviors that prevent and disrupt a good night’s sleep. By addressing the true underlying roots of the problem, you enable and naturally strengthen your inborn ability to sleep well – permanently, safely, and without drugs.
The STS takes a unique approach by incorporating proven concepts in human performance training used in business and adult learning, along with highly effective sleep-improvement methods derived from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT-I). Together, they are an exceptionally powerful combination to help improve sleep.
The sleep improvement methods in the STS are comparable to those used in top sleep clinics around the world. These methods have been tested many times in clinical situations and have proven to be of significant benefit. Using CBT-based programs, at least one-third of insomniacs become normal sleepers. At least 70-80%, and in some studies up to 100% derive benefit from using CBT methods.
CBT-I methods are also the standard of care recommended for insomnia by the American College of Physicans and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Significantly, these gold-standard methods are entirely drug-free and have no adverse side effects. More importantly, these methods are statistically more effective than sleeping pills, with none of the troublesome side effects nor dependency issues.
In addition, on-line versions of these methods -- including self-help programs like the STS to improve sleep -- have been shown to be effective as well. Moreover, the benefits of CBT sleep training programs have been proven to extend beyond primary insomnia – research shows these methods also reduce symptoms of depression and improve sleep for those with obstructive sleep apnea.
This is important: you too can reasonably expect to benefit if you conscientiously use this program.
Using the STS, you will learn and use proven CBT and performance training methods to help yourself sleep better, and to improve the quantity, quality, and efficiency of your sleep. By properly applying these methods, many former insomniacs have permanently recovered normal sleep, and done so without the need for drugs of any kind. This program will provide you with a precise, easy to follow, step-by-step manual to achieve exactly that goal.
This is what the STS is about – proven techniques you can use to sleep better, whether you’re just up occasionally and want to learn how to better control your sleep, or even if you have suffered through years of sleep problems, as many of us have.
I speak from experience on this, because that’s exactly what I did.
For most of my life, I was a normal sleeper. Sure, there were occasional times when I had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, as most people do. But I functioned reasonably well during the daytime and these occasional nights with less than optimal sleep weren’t a problem.
Then, in my mid-30s, I began having enough trouble sleeping that I started worrying about it. I wondered what was happening. I didn’t understand why I was up in the night and was frustrated by not being in control. At one point, I stopped drinking coffee — and that seemed to solve the problem. For about 10 years.
In my late 40s I began having more problems sleeping. As is common for many persons with learned or conditioned insomnia, I unwittingly fell into a self-reinforcing pattern of bad sleep habits.
Rather than trying to quiet myself down when awakened, I would get up and out of bed in the middle of the night to work in my home office. Sometimes the work was stressful. This pattern began to feel normal to me, and it created problems. After going back to bed, I found I needed more time in bed to feel refreshed when I woke up. Instead of around 8 hours of sleep, I needed more like 10, with a 2 hour awakened period in the middle of the night.
This for me was not an efficient use of time. I wanted to sleep soundly through the night, like I used to, and to also sleep efficiently – meaning make the best use of my time in bed.
But I didn’t know what to do or how to do it.
In the meantime, things went from bad to worse. I began to dread the thought of going to bed, thinking “oh no, here we go again – another bad night ahead.” I would toss and turn, frustrated at my lack of control, and frequently checking the clock next to my bed. I awoke feeling grouchy and irritable with the preconceived idea that I would have yet another bad day because I didn’t get a good night’s sleep.
Today, looking back, I realize now I was setting myself up for a powerfully negative self-fulfilling prophecy. I slept poorly because I expected to. I felt grouchy because I thought I would.
Does my experience sound a bit like yours? Many insomniacs follow a similar pattern.
Frankly, I should have known better.
For years I studied and taught human performance training and principles of self-improvement. I am well versed in negative reinforcing cycles and the profound effect of self-fulfilling expectations on performance. But in my own case, there was a blind spot. I just did not make the connection between my sleeping difficulties and my own self-talk, attitudes, and behaviors.
No matter what I tried, I couldn’t force myself to sleep. Forcing seemed to backfire. I began to get increasingly desperate, because I felt helpless in the face of this insomnia. It controlled me.
Groping for a solution, I began trying various substances to force sleep. I searched for that magic pill, which I now know doesn’t exist.
First I tried a “natural” sleep aid alternative: melatonin. That helped a little, but I awoke feeling groggy. Even using melatonin, after a week or so I regressed back to my old pattern of difficulty falling and staying asleep. Like many people, melatonin gave me mixed results. In the end it was ineffective. I stopped using it because I didn’t want to develop a dependency – physical or psychological.
Next I tried something stronger – diphenhydramine, an over-the-counter anti-histamine allergy medication that is also used to induce drowsiness. This ingredient is commonly found in non-prescription sleeping pills.
I did sleep on that, but awoke feeling uncomfortably groggy and thick-headed the next day. That feeling lasted throughout the day, and for me it was awful, worse than the insomnia. I only lasted two nights on that drug.
Then I felt more helpless than ever, completely frustrated, and didn’t know what to do next. That was the worst part of it for me, the lack of control, not knowing.
Finally, in desperation, I made an appointment with my doctor. My intent was to get a prescription for what was then a relatively new class of sleeping pills, a sedative hypnotic drug. I had read about these, seen the advertisements, and wanted to try it. I told my doctor I wanted something to basically “press the reset button” on my sleeping habits.
My thought was perhaps I could take the prescription drug for a couple of weeks to in effect reset my sleep system, then stop the pills and be a normal sleeper again.
Too bad it doesn’t work that way.
I didn’t realize then what I know now – sleeping pills would have in no way addressed the root cause of my insomnia, only the symptoms. The source would still be there. In treating only the symptoms, I would have risked an unhealthy psychological or even physical dependency on drugs.
My doctor had good news and bad news. The good news, as it turned out for me, was that she refused to prescribe a sleeping pill. She explained her concern about dependency, possible abuse, and especially the potential impact on long-term mental function from these hypnotics. She wondered about the possibility of these drugs contributing to premature senility or Alzheimer’s disease if used long term.
The bad news was my doctor didn’t really know how to effectively treat insomnia without drugs. And that’s not a surprise. Many if not most primary care physicians have minimal training or experience in treating insomnia, and typically only suggest mild behavioral techniques. Treating insomnia is not normally taught in most medical schools in depth, unless students or practitioners take specialized courses in sleep disorders and treatment.
My physician did suggest some basic behavioral techniques like exercising earlier in the day, not drinking coffee, cola, or other stimulants later in the day; sleeping in a dark and cool room; and similar practices known collectively as sleep hygiene. These for me helped but weren’t enough to break the tenacious hold of insomnia. These techniques alone were not enough to in effect reset my sleep system.
Nevertheless, it was a start. I realized sleep hygiene practices were all good ideas, and wanted more. In further researching sleep hygiene, I discovered how cognitive behavioral therapy is used very effectively to treat insomnia. This was a huge breakthrough for me.
Very simply put, I learned CBT has two parts, as one would expect: the cognitive and the behavioral.
The cognitive part refers to thoughts, emotions, and attitudes. It deals with the underlying mental processes that significantly contribute to insomnia.
The behavioral part refers collectively to actions we may or may not take, and specific things we do or don’t do. It includes many of the lifestyle choices we make that enable – or in some cases disable – good sleeping.
In CBT-I, both components work synergistically together and combine powerfully to effectively address the roots of primary insomnia, which refers to sleeping problems with no apparent medical or psychiatric cause.
CBT is one of many therapies deployed by mental health professionals. For our purposes, CBT is the one approach that has consistently been clinically proven to help insomniacs sleep better.
According to the National Institutes of Health, which has spent millions researching insomnia, CBT is “a psychology-based treatment that trains people to reduce anxiety and take other sleep-promoting steps – (it) is very effective, and doesn't cause side effects.”
While studying psychology at UCLA, I learned many different types of psychotherapies. Of them all, I have found CBT not only to be effective, but to be by far the most flexible approach for treating a multitude of conditions, for this one very simple reason – it works. Today in fact, CBT is considered the gold standard in treating insomnia.
In the STS, we enhance the methods derived from clinically proven CBT-I by incorporating helpful tools, tips, and techniques that I have used professionally in over 40 years of counseling work, adult education, and performance training.
By applying CBT within a user-friendly framework of performance training, the result is this: you can systematically train yourself to sleep better.
Just as you train to acquire a new skill, play a musical instrument, perform dance steps, learn another language, or perform any of the countless other human capabilities, you can effectively train yourself to sleep better.
The STS will show you how, in a logical step-by-step program.
By combining CBT and the common sense approach of performance training, the STS delivers a very safe, natural, and effective treatment for better sleeping. It does not require drugs of any kind to work.
The STS goes directly to the root causes of learned insomnia. Unlike pills, the program will not force you to sleep. Instead, the STS enables you to sleep.
The STS helps you identify and release negative thoughts and counterproductive behaviors that interfere with sleep. By constructively addressing the root causes, the STS helps you remove the impediments that hamper good sleep. And you do so permanently with no side effects.
The concepts in the STS are proven. And, as you will learn as you proceed through this program, if the STS so effectively helps you safely and naturally sleep better, you can also apply the very same tools to help improve most any aspect of your life in which you have potential. Knowing the solution to your problems often resides within you is tremendously empowering.
For me, it boiled down to this: when the choice was either let insomnia control me or I control it, that was an easy decision to make.
So consider this your invitation – and the means – to take back control. If you are willing to conscientiously work the program, the STS will provide you with a clear, logical, concise, step-by-step plan to naturally improve and powerfully strengthen your ability to sleep well and consistently awaken refreshed.